PDA Letter Article

The Role of Peer Review in the Success of the PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology

by Tony Cundell, PhD, Microbiological Consulting, LLC, and Associate Editor, PDA JPST

The technical credibility of the PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology (JPST) is maintained through the process of peer review by recognized experts in the area related to a submitted manuscript. This peer review elevates the journal above other for-profit and trade organization publications serving the pharmaceutical industry. Although the citation rate of published articles is low compared to a more academic publication, the impact within the pharmaceutical industry is far-reaching. This is evidenced by the number of readers who open and read an article, but more telling is the number of times an article is downloaded and saved as a PDF file. An article may be used for training purposes, establishing company policies and procedures, answering questions as to industry practice during inspections or supporting regulatory submissions.

1 electonic tablet, 1 laptop, and one phone lined up together to spell out 'WE NEED YOU' in English, German, and Spanish

The willingness of PDA members to volunteer as peer reviewers, accept the invitation to review a manuscript and complete their review in a timely manner is critical in maintaining the JPST’s standards and reducing the turnaround time from submission to publication. A long delay in publication is an issue that the Editor and Journal Editorial Board want to address, as it will discourage authors from submitting future manuscripts and lessen the impact of their articles on hot topics.

Reviewers must be objective and fair-minded in their comments and requests for changes to the manuscripts and in their recommendations for acceptance or rejection. Typically, the JPST aims to recruit at least three reviewers for each submitted manuscript but, in some subject areas, the reviewer pool is sparse. On average, 3.5 reviewers evaluate each manuscript. The practice of adding authors to the pool of reviewers is sound, but are the authors aware of this practice and do they have a sense of commitment to this role? It is important that the PDA membership see peer-reviewing as a professional obligation that provides a service that contributes to the success of PDA and our industry.

The Benefits of Being a Reviewer

A PDA member may ask what benefit they gain from spending their time reviewing manuscripts. Unlike academics, they may not see this as an expected activity. Authors believe that reviewers have the opportunity to do the following:

  • Make a concrete contribution to benefit the pharmaceutical industry and enhance the continued success of the PDA as a professional organization
  • Help maintain the high technical standards of the PDA JPST
  • Sharpen their critical thinking and technical writing skills and stay abreast of the most recent advances in their areas of expertise
  • Feel a sense of satisfaction in contributing by reviewing manuscripts

The Scope and Objectives of the PDA JPST

The PDA mission statement is “to advance pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical manufacturing science and regulation so members can better serve patients” who are treated with our products. In terms of our vision of being the premier educational partner for professionals in academia, industry and government for the advancement of manufacturing, quality and regulatory science, the PDA JPST plays a key role. The Editor and Journal Editorial Board want to continue to meet and exceed this challenge. To read more about the content, vision and mission of PDA JPST, click here.

A Brief History of PDA JPST and its Growth

Pharmaceutical professionals in New York City founded the Parenteral Drug Association in late 1946, and their publication, Bulletin of the Parenteral Drug Association, was first published the following year. In the beginning, the Bulletin mainly contained news and commentary. By 1977, the Bulletin was renamed the Journal of the Parenteral Drug Association and put more emphasis on technical publications. In 1994, the PDA Board of Directors approved the current journal name, which more accurately reflected the goals and objectives of the Association, namely the PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, and renamed the organization the PDA. Currently, the JPST is published online, six times a year to be read by the membership with the opportunity to download individual current articles without additional charge.

The “Accepted Articles” process that was introduced in 2019 speeds up the PDA JPST publication process similar to a preprint system. In so doing, it allows our readers to read, comment on and cite peer-reviewed papers ahead of publication in an issue.

Types of Articles Published

The types of articles published include editorials, letters to the editor, commentary, reviews, technology applications and research articles. Not unexpectedly, the largest category is research articles followed, in descending order, by commentaries, technological applications and reviews (See Table 1).

Table 1 Distribution of Article Types Accepted by the PDA JPST in 2019, 2020 and 2021                                                                                               
Article Type 2019 2020 2021
Editorial 1 3 0
Letter to the Editor 1 1 0
Commentary 9 10 8
Review 4 3 6
Technological Application 13 8 4
Research 29 22 17
Case Study 1 3 0
Meeting Proceedings 0 1 9
PDA Papers 2 2 0
Total Number of Articles 60 53 44

The number pages published from year to year is relatively stable; as the number of articles has declined, that suggests the number of pages per article has increased. With a rejection rate exceeding 10%, the PDA JPST uses peer review to maintain a high editorial standard.

Instructions to Authors

The instructions to authors and the link to submit a manuscript may be accessed on the PDA website; the “PDA Journal” is under the Publications dropdown menu.

Areas Requiring Additional Reviewers

Since PDA was founded, the scope of the organization has expanded from parenteral products to nonsterile drugs, biopharmaceuticals, gene and cell therapies and medical devices. Currently, reviewers with the following areas of expertise are needed:

  • Pharmaceutical/biopharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Sterile product production
  • Aseptic processing
  • Pharmaceutical microbiology
  • Quality
  • Packaging
  • Extractables/leachables
  • Cell and gene therapy
  • Viral clearance
  • Single-use systems
  • Vaccines
  • Human factors

To become a reviewer for the PDA JPST, go to submitjournal.pda.org, the Bench Press Submission and Review website, and create an account. Ensure that you include your areas of expertise and contact information in the enrollment record.

Most Common Observations for Manuscript Revisions

What are the most common comments made by reviewers for authors to revise their manuscripts?

  • Failure to follow the instructions for authors in terms of structure and content of the manuscript
  • The abstract fails to summarize the contents of the manuscript
  • Claims are made in the manuscript that are not supported by experimental data, informed argument or citation to the literature
  • Incomplete citation of the past pertinent literature on the topic discussed in the manuscript with a tendency for self-citation
  • Incomplete descriptions in the tables and figure captions
  • Lack of clarity in the language used in the manuscript
  • The discussion section does not address the implication of the reported findings and their relationship to the published literature

Reviewer Shortcomings

In the belief that every manuscript can be improved, the reviewers' efforts often lack recommending improvements to the manuscript and limiting their comments to a recommendation to accept the manuscript for publication.


A key to the success of the PDA JPST is the willingness of the membership to volunteer to review submitted manuscripts for content in a timely manner. We invite the membership to participate as reviewers and believe you will find this a worthwhile endeavor.